Westport’s National Register of Historic Places-listed Cornell Cooperative Extension Building is at risk of demolition in the face of an Essex County plan to replace it with a new structure. Working with the FRIENDS OF THE ESSEX FAIRGROUNDS, local friends and preservationists, farmers, and other stakeholders, Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) vigorously opposes the destruction of this significant and storied piece of Westport’s heritage, one of the more important and defining structures within the Essex County Fairgrounds.
- It destroys a prominent, character-defining, National Register-listed building.
- The new building proposed is more expensive than rehabilitating the existing historic building.
- The new building proposed is smaller in size than the existing historic building.
- The new building does not add to the character or attractiveness of the Fairgrounds.
Friends of Essex County Fairgrounds and AARCH worked with renowned preservation architecture firm, Crawford & Stearns, to produce a report with rehabilitation cost estimates of $1.8 million. Essex County claims rehabilitation will come to $2.3 million, in justification of the building’s demolition.
Rehabilitation is not only the most cost-effective and greenest option, it will provide more space for less cost, removing the carbon and landfill waste created by both demolition and new construction, and offer a more community-centered, heritage-rich space for Westport and Essex County youth.
The County has received federal funds that could be used for the existing building’s rehabilitation or new construction. Because the building is on the National Register, federal funds used for any part of a project involving demolition will have to undergo a review in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The CCE building’s potential for restoration and further use proves that there are feasible and prudent alternatives to its demolition.
At $264/square foot, renovation is the most cost-effective and greenest option, providing more space for less cost, removing the carbon and landfill waste created by both demolition and new construction, and offering a more community-centered, heritage-rich space for Westport and Essex County youth. Renovation of the entire CCE building will help restore the Fairgrounds as the center of agricultural activity for Essex County. Preserving the structure would also help celebrate and highlight the Essex County Fairground’s biggest asset – the beauty and picturesque character of its rare, iconic late 19th and early 20th century buildings.
Historically known as the Westport Junior Achievement building, this wonderful example of a Colonial Revival agricultural building was paid for by Ticonderoga native, farmer, and philanthropist Horace A. Moses, and designed by noted Adirondack architect Max Westhoff in 1923, and completed by workers in August 1924. Its unique architectural style not only matched nearby agricultural buildings at the now National Register-listed Essex County Fairgrounds, but also reflected the optimism and aspirational vision of a prosperous and sustainable future in Westport and the Champlain Valley more broadly.
Ticonderoga native Horace A. Moses, a philanthropist, industrialist, and a co-founder of the Junior Achievement project, offered $20,000 to the Essex County Agricultural Society for the construction of the building, which totaled $25,000 in the end (between 375,000 and $390,000 today). On the first floor, fair tickets were sold, a lively exhibit spaced housed youth-led projects and achievements, and a kitchen buzzed with cooking demonstrations. Here, locals cooked and served food not only with the youths working at the site, but to their neighbors as well.
The building also featured a stage for celebrating the Junior Achievement work in Essex County, and provided space for educational and civic projects focused on training youth in electrical work, textile work, woodwork, leather work and shoe repair, furniture making, and cooking just to name a few. When the building formally opened on August 20, 1924, the Junior Achievement Foundation deemed it Junior Achievement day.
Just down the road, the Westport Town Hall stands as a clear, local example of a successful, AARCH Preservation Award-winning restoration project and provides model for the rehabilitation and reuse of the CCE building. For a cost comparison, the Town Hall’s renovation totaled $150/square foot, while the construction of the new Nutrition Building at the Fairgrounds cost $370/square foot. The economic benefits of a reuse project as opposed to rehabilitation is clear.
To express additional support for preservation of the CCE Building, write to or contact any or all of Essex County’s Supervisors:
Essex County Board of Supervisors
Shaun Gilliland, Chairman
P.O. Box 217
Elizabethtown, New York 12932
(518) 873-3350 | Fax: (518) 873-3356
Chesterfield: Clayton Barber firstname.lastname@example.org
Crown Point: Charles Harrington email@example.com
Elizabethtown: Noel H. Merrihew III firstname.lastname@example.org
Essex: Ken Hughes email@example.com
Jay: Matthew Stanley firstname.lastname@example.org
Keene: Joe Pete Wilson email@example.com
Lewis: James W. Monty firstname.lastname@example.org
Minerva: Stephen R. McNally email@example.com
Moriah: Thomas R. Scozzafava firstname.lastname@example.org
Newcomb: Mr. Robin DeLoria email@example.com
North Elba: Derek Doty firstname.lastname@example.org
North Hudson: Stephanie DeZalia email@example.com
St. Armand: Davina Winemiller firstname.lastname@example.org
Schroon: Margaret C. Wood email@example.com
Ticonderoga: Mark A. Wright firstname.lastname@example.org
Westport: Michael K. Tyler email@example.com
Willsboro: Shaun Gillilland firstname.lastname@example.org
Wilmington: Roy Holzer email@example.com
For additional resources, see below:
In November 2020, NYSDEC announced its intention, through a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement, to demolish Debar Pond Lodge, a National Register-listed Great Camp in the Franklin County town of Duane. Since DEC has not been able to imagine a use for this historic site while in state ownership, it seems that the only remaining alternative to save this Adirondack treasure is through a constitutional amendment.
How would this work? A constitutional amendment is a long process that requires that the state legislature to pass and the voters of New York State to approve an amendment to the state constitution that allows an exception to Article 14. There have been many successful land exchange amendments in the past. Such an amendment to save Debar Pond Lodge would exchange about six acres of land around the lodge for at least 300 acres of new land to be added to the Forest Preserve. The exchange would also ensure that the boundaries of the parcel around the lodge are drawn in such a way to ensure continued public access to Debar Pond and its Forest Preserve surroundings for viewing, picnicking, swimming, boating, hiking, or cross-country skiing.
The lodge property would be conveyed to a nonprofit organization, the Debar Pond Institute, dedicated to preserving Debar Pond Lodge for the education, enjoyment and inspiration of present and future generations and to operate diverse education and recreation programs there that are open to the public. For a description of the vision and process to achieve this, click this link to The Debar Lodge Land Exchange Amendment Questions and Answers document.
THE DEBAR LODGE LAND EXCHANGE AMENDMENT Please view QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS document.
Yes – this is a long and tedious process, but this particular land exchange amendment is a win-win solution on many fronts. It would save a magnificent work of Adirondack architecture; allow the property to be used for public education and recreation; enlarge the Forest Preserve by 300 or more acres; maintain public access to Debar Pond and its surroundings; help disburse usage of the Forest Preserve away from the overused High Peaks region; provide jobs and economic benefits to the local community; and save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in demolition and construction costs.
The bottom line is that this is an important complex of historic buildings, there is a tremendous amount of public support for its preservation and public use, and an amendment to the constitution seems to now be the cleanest way to save the lodge.
The public has another opportunity to comment on the future of this important historic site by writing to NYSDEC and the APA via email at: DebarComment@apa.ny.gov or by writing:
Steven Gugliemi, NYS DEC
1115 NYS Route 8
PO Box 296
Ray Brook, NY 12977-0296
Please speak up about this important issue. The previous deadline for comments is February 12, 2021.
A suggested statement of support is:
We support the preservation and public use of Debar Pond Lodge, a National Register listed Great Camp in the Franklin County town of Duane because this is an important group of architecturally significant buildings and has great potential as a cultural, educational and recreational center for the local area and the Adirondack North Country region.
We support the preservation and public use of Debar Pond Lodge through a land exchange amendment to the New York State Constitution, such as is proposed by the Debar Pond Institute, a New York, non-profit educational organization named Debar Pond Institute, which will be ready, willing and able to enter into a land exchange agreement with the state of New York to trade the state at least 300 acres of land in return for six acres of land including Debar Lodge and then refurbish the lodge and operate it in the public interest.
We insist that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency table the state’s current plan to demolish Debar Pond Lodge and to allow the constitutional amendment process to proceed.
Debar Pond Lodge (Town of Duane) was designed by William Distin and built for the Wheeler family in 1939. In 2004, this log lodge and a half-dozen other buildings in the complex reverted to state ownership.
Thanks, in large part to AARCH’s advocacy efforts, the plan to demolish the lodge was put off and it is currently being used for NYSDEC administrative purposes. However, recent plans from NYSDEC again call for the removal of the building. AARCH’s extensive advocacy for the preservation and continued use of this superb example of 20th century rustic camp architecture in the Adirondacks.
To express your support for the preservation of Debar Pond Lodge, write to NYSDEC at:
Joseph Zalewski, Acting Director
NYSDEC, Region 5
P.O. Box 276
Ray Brook, NY 12976
This 118-mile railroad, completed in 1891, made it possible for the interior of the western and central Adirondacks to be more widely settled and to prosper economically. The entire corridor was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1993. Passenger service ended in 1965, freight service ended in 1972, and New York State purchased the abandoned line in 1975. In 1992 a volunteer organization formed to create the Adirondack Scenic Railroad (ASR) , which now carries nearly 80,000 people on the southern tier (Utica to Big Moose) and 15,000 on the northern tier (Lake Placid to Saranac Lake). In early 2016, New York State signed off on a Department of Environmental Conservation plan to shut down the northern tier rail service and rip up 34 miles of tracks from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake to build a recreational trail. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad has filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court to stop the destruction of this section of the corridor.
The Preservation League of New York State identified the rail corridor as one of its “Seven to Save” most endangered sites in New York in 2016. Read the joint statement by the League and AARCH supporting the legal challenge to the state decision: ASR Joint Statement
Read AARCH’s Fact Sheet: Save Remsen to Lake Placid Rail Corridor.
To express support, please send a letter to:
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
(You can also send Gov. Cuomo a message electronically; click here.)
Wesleyan Methodist Church
The Wesleyan Methodist Church (West Chazy, Clinton County) was erected in 1880 and used until 1915 when a new church was built across the street. The old church served for many years as L. G. Robinson’s Hardware and Lumber Store. The building has sat idle for many years.
Currently St. Gabriels Church (Paul Smiths, Franklin County), although vacant is still owned by the Catholic Diocese and under oratory status. However, that status cannot be extended beyond ten years; according to the deed, once oratory status expires (November 24, 2012), the property reverts back to the previous owner, in this case, Paul Smith’s College. The college is interested in owning the building and restoring it for its use as a chapel and meeting place for student activities. Until this transpires, St. Gabriels Church is considered endangered.
The Daniel Ames House on NYS Route 86 (North Elba, Essex County) is an early 19th century Greek Revival style house that is unoccupied and deteriorating. It is owned by and on the grounds of the Saranac Lake Golf Club.
Aiden Lair, a well-known inn and stagecoach stop on Route 28N in Minerva (Essex County) is vacant and continues to deteriorate. Time is rapidly running out if this important roadside establishment is to preserved.
Wellscroft in Upper Jay, a Tudor Revival style house built in 1903 for Jean and Wallis Craig Smith of Saginaw, Michigan, included a 15,000 square foot main house, caretaker’s house, children’s playhouse, firehouse, powerhouse, and carriage house. Twice abandoned in the 1990s and extensively vandalized, Wellscroft appeared on AARCH’s “Endangered Properties List” for several years. It had recently been restored, operating as an inn. It was offered for sale through auction last year, but it appears that there were no buyers and it is currently on the market, brokered by Persons Real Estate..
There are three National Register-listed historic bridges over the Ausable River that face a very uncertain future. They are the River Street Bridge (1878) in Keeseville, the Old State Road Bridge (circa 1900) in Ausable Chasm, and the Walton Bridge (1890) in Keene. All have been closed to traffic and there are no current plans, by the Essex and Clinton County Departments of Public Works, to rehabilitate and reopen them.
The River Street Bridge, the oldest Pratt Through Truss Bridge in New York State, is one of only about 75 cast and wrought iron bridges in the United States, and is also listed as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. In 2007, Essex County had an engineering assessment done for the bridge and is now, with support from AARCH, exploring various rehabilitation options.
The Old State Road Bridge used to carry all of the northsouth traffic on NYS Route 9 until it was bypassed in the 1930s. This pony truss bridge also has a cantilevered sidewalk that allows pedestrians to view Rainbow and Horseshoe Falls at the entrance to Ausable Chasm.
To express your support for the preservation of these bridges, write to or contact the Essex County Board of Supervisors:
Essex County Board of Supervisors
Shaun Gilliland, Chairman
P.O. Box 217
Elizabethtown, New York 12932
(518) 873-3350 | Fax: (518) 873-3356
Follow the energized Save Keeseville’s Historic Bridges movement on Facebook, and sign their petition.
For a complete list of historic bridges along the Ausable River and in Essex County, see:
The Historic Bridges of Essex County (pdf)
Read AARCH’s letter of support for Essex County Bridges: LOS for Ausable River Bridges (pdf)
(Warrensburg, Warren County), a c.1896, eighty-nine foot, one-lane steel truss bridge connecting Schroon River Road (County Route 10) in Warrensburg with East Schroon River Road in Bolton, is scheduled for replacement in 2009. The current bridge is load rated for three tons, and although it has a relatively low traffic volume, has been selected for replacement to “meet the current transportation needs.”